Snow and high winds briefly stalled search efforts for a 74-year-old Manhattan Beach man who didn’t return last week from a four-day backpacking trip in the wilderness of Inyo County.
Rescue crews were forced to suspend their search for Robert “Bob” Woodie after powerful winds, rain, lightning and snow moved through the area on Sunday evening, said Zach Behrens, a spokesman for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
By Monday, aerial searches were underway for Woodie, who was reported missing Oct. 17 after he failed to return from his trip in the Kings Canyon National Park. But ground searches were still halted.
Woodie began his trek Oct. 13 possibly from South Lake, outside Bishop, to the park via Bishop Pass, authorities said.
On the evening of Oct. 15, he used a satellite message device to send a check-in message in the area of Barrett Lakes. At the time, overnight temperatures were below freezing, with snow falling in some areas above 10,500 feet.
Woodie hasn’t been heard from or seen since the check-in, Behrens said.
“He was an experienced hiker,” Behrens said. “He knew the area.”
Search crews are now reviewing data and clues gathered in the past week to determine what their next steps will be, he said. Although Behrens declined to talk about specific evidence gathered, he said that, in similar cases, clues have often included footprints or abandoned gear.
More than 100 people in search and rescue teams from the Army National Guard, from Sierra Madre and Yosemite National Park, as well as from Inyo, Fresno and Monterey counties have been looking for Woodie. Crews have searched rocky mountain passes, alpine lakes and forest areas, which reach between 8,000 and 12,000 feet.
Park officials have been contacting all hikers who obtained permits to visit the area. But they are now looking to speak with any hiker who was in the area and might have some information about Woodie and conditions at the park, Behrens said.
He might have been carrying a blue, shell-type jacket; baseball cap or floppy hat; and boots. He also may have been carrying a blue, internal-frame backpack.
Anyone with information about Woodie's whereabouts is urged to call the park at (559) 565-3117 or Inyo County Sheriff at (760) 878-0383.
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